tv This Week in Defense CBS August 8, 2010 11:00am-11:30am EDT
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♪ welcome to this week in defense news. as u.s. death soars, pressure is rising to cut government spending but a congressionally mandated panel talks about how the u.s. military handles classified information. an update on tensions between beijing and washington. joining me this week are john donnelley, lauren thompson, john barry, and john bennett. gentlemen, welcome to the show. let's start off with the number of reports that are crashing down and the strength in
washington about spending me defense. defense secretary gates has announced a plan to save $100 billion over the coming five years. the defense business board is trying to fuel the debate by suggesting that the joint forces command be closed and 100,000 civilian jobs be gotten rid of. an alternative qdr panel comes out and says we oughta spend more me defense? >> you'll see less money for defense. with a five-year defense plan later in theory, uh, 1% increase in the, in the out years, i don't know anybody who agrees it'll happen. the best it'll be is zero, the best that could happen is level. as for the panel saying we should spend anything, everybody says it won't go anywhere. report of the deficit commission run by simpson and bowl. they're going to say we have to get the deficit down. >> i agree, when you said
they're cutting $100 billion out of 2012 to 2016 budget, that's just overhead. secretary gates claims he's already cut $300 billion out of foreign weapons spending, we're getting of out iraq, getting out of afghanistan, of course defense money is coming down. >> let's ask about this. the $100 billion target, is that too modest of a target at this point? >> i think it'll be fairly hard tomorrow us to get that. one thing we need to remember about that hundred million dollars, it's implicit in what you were saying about the overall levels, that ain't going to the treasury. that will stay within the defense department. it's not really going to help the overall federal deficit problem. >> right, um, john, uh, john bennett, i have three johns here. i have to be more specific about who i'm talking about. john bennett, defense secretary gates met with industrialists uh, recently and one of the messages he delivered was "work
with me, if i don't save money, i'm going to be facing cuts." everybody at that meeting understood he was talking about the white house, the pentagon's not coming back and saying it was congress. what's he specifically afraid about? >> he's afraid about all of the various pressures from both outside of the defense budget and inside the defense budget, personnel, health care, the growing cost of weapons systems and as we talked about, deficit reduction, the obama administration's domestic agenda, all these pressures coming together and forcing the white house and/or congress. i think reality is the pressure from both, eventually, to make big cuts and he's saying listen industry, listen to the services, everyone work with me, let's hit these targets on our own and at least buy ourselves some time before others say, just step in and say, no the kids are here. >> i think gates may be right about that. you have to keep a couple things in mind.
we're talking about generating savings from overhead but don't start materializing until fiscal 2012. gates will probably be gone by then. i think the sense of urgency about the deficit has political impact long before the savings materialize. >> another thing to point out, the war in afghanistan in particular, to a lesser extent the war in iraq, as long as they're continuing at the levels they are and will for the next couple years through obama's first term, who knows if he'll have a second one. my point is that as long as the wars are continuing, it'll be difficult to bring the overall level of defense spending down. >> i suspect you guys, i suspect gates realizes that the savings that he's laid out in the series so far, you know, aren't going to be enough. i suspect you'll see more dramatic steps taken by gates. >> there's two problems with that. problem number one is, is there a constituency on capitol hill
that wants to cut defense spending. every year the administration asks for x and gets y. congress gave it, increased it to almost 4%. obviously that didn't work out well. is there a constituency to tackle uh, things like reducing pay benefits? people costs? cutting people, closing facilities? uh, in an election year? >> i don't think there's much of a constituency ever, particularly in an election year. i think this will be the thing that congress is dragged, kicking and screaming into doing. only because their hand's going to be forced by the horrific deficit and debt situation. on the current path-- >> i think this illustrates the problem dramatically. according to cbo by fiscal 2018, eight years away, we'll be spending as much money paying off the interest on the debt as we are on national defense. that kind of puts it into perspective. >> i think there's always a
constituency on, on capitol hill for eliminating waste, but it's a matter of intensity. although the majority of the members may want to reduce waste at the pentagon, when it comes to specific items, where the cuts come, the people opposed to cutting are much stronger in terms of what they're willing to do than the people who want to oppose the cuts. >> for cutting waste in the abstract. will we see a defense bill any time soon? >> no, we have august recess coming up. >> it's august. >> right. >> what's the rush, really? >> they'll take up the defense authorization bill in the senate, the house already passed its version, it'll be a heated and protracted debate. then they've gotta go home and campaign for re-election in november. it's almost certain defense bills won't happen until after the november elections. probably the authorization bill will be enacted first.
>> the issue of john bennett on this side, the issue of second amendment for the joint strike fighter has been a percolating issue. what do you think? is the president going to end up vetoing this? >> i don't think they'll veto the appropriations bill over this. they got a lot of what they asked for, c17s for example, i don't think they'll veto the appropriations bill just over this one issue. >> that's why the timing i just mentioned is pretty significant. >> you've got a solution to this. >> well, yeah. if the authorization bill clears first and contains the alternate engine money, a big if, i grant you, if it does, i could easily see obama vetoing that. the only critical part of that is the pay rate and that can be enacted separately. i can see him vetoing the defense authorization bill and appropriators chasing by that. they don't have a veto override numbers in their chamber to
combat it. >> tanker, the competition is in, airbus, boeing and another team. there's another protest we heard about, what's going? this competition got crazier. u.s. aerospace and ukrainian partner are alleging that their messenger arrived in ohio where the tanker selection committee is hold up away from the world. on time, the deadline was 1:30 on july 9th. said he was there on time, plenty of time to get in, get to the-- >> right the drop. >> and they're alleging that intentional, he was intentionally given the wrong directions and intentionally there was a delay in getting the folks to meet him somewhere on base. >> right the bid was accepted at 2:05:00 p.m., the deadline was 1:30. the pentagon is saying it's a tight strike zone and you guys just missed the corner. >> it's been noon since
[laughter] what? all right, what's the joke? what's so funny? welcome back. july has been the deadliest month for uses forces in afghanistan. public support for the war is waning. now you have the wikileaks scandal that struck undermining trust in the war. and the administration has said they want to start drawing troops down in 2010. lauren, will we start drawing
troops down in 2011? >> i think almost certainly so. not because we're doing well but because a president can't go into a re-election campaign with the war hanging over his administration. it'll be a hard-fought campaign. we'll have been there for a dozen years. the president didn't really want in. look where we are. just last month, general patraeus arrives and decides he has to change the rules of engagement. nine years into a war we're changing the rules of engagement, what's that tell you? >> doesn't that doom the conflict if afghan says "you guys won't be here. we'll make an accommodation with the taliban then." >> the existence of the deadline is a game-changer. what happened now is everybody involved, karzai, taliban, pakistanis in isi are looking to a post-american afghanistan. the leverage that the u.s. has, general patraeus, the president has ties to karzai.
>> how important was the wikileaks scandal in terms of undermining support with afghans? already weak support with afghanis? >> it's already hard to tell. obviously there may be some who will be wary of dealing with the united states as a result of that. i think it had, in congress it had, it had an adverse impact on support, uh, to some degree. it was amazing to watch the difference between a year ago, the vote on the war spending bill and the recent vote, uh, a tripling of democratic opposition. republicans remain pretty much solid, but, but the democratic uh, support for the war is really started to crumble. >> john bennett, let's talk about wikileaks a little bit. secretary gates has a reputation for secretiveness. does the back-to-back uh, issue with the rolling stone interview, as well as this one, going to end up having a pentagon clamping down on more information than it releases?
>> i think it will, for how long remains to be seen, we'll have to see. i think it's not so much this pentagon, i think it's human nature when two things like this happen in such close succession to clamp down a little bit. i don't think this will lead to a pentagon that's maybe as tight-lipped as the last administration. >> if i can make it counter intuitive, back to the last segment, if you want to save money in overhead in this government, you can cut down on a lot of the secrecy restrictions. we waste so much money, that just loosening up on these rules, we could probably save close to a billion dollars a year. >> my first reaction to the wikileaks issue was look at all this information that they are decrying the release of classified information while in the same breath saying it didn't tell us anything we don't already know. that's the problem.
there's extreme overclassification. >> exactly so. and that which should be classified ends up in these documents. imagine the lunacy of that. let's talk about iraq, briefly, um, 20th anniversary, actually of the first iraq war, we're getting started on that, uh, the administration has said that the forces will be out soon and on schedule, but there'll still abe fast presence there, ooh, for how long? how much will that cost overall? >> 50,000 troops in "long combat roles." >> support roles. >> loosely defined. >> and, and if you talk to the people who negotiated this forces agreement, the data was 2011 as being the total american withdrawal was essentially set as a political date. it was far enough away that it didn't bother anybody, but just enough to keep the iraqis happy. malachi was clear.
as well as was the ambassador at the time. renegotiable at the 2011 date. if it looks as if iraq was going to fall apart and american presence remain after that? >> the bison character of our presence in iraq will be determined by the iraqi government, assuming they can form one. we're getting out in the sense of calling the shots in the country, whether we're there or not, if they want us gone, from the whole country or kurdistan or whatever, we're giving them control of the country again. >> one thing on the contractor build-up that's coming in iraq, the state department says they don't have enough people to manage the contracts they have now. the contractors that are on scene now, there are going to be even more people to oversee the contractors. that's more cost associated with it. >> everyone know that the state department does not have, hasn't had a prospect of having the
we're back with john donny, lauren thompson, john barry, and john bennett. um, u.s. strategy has been increasingly predicated on relying on coalition partners. in afghanistan, that's demonstration throughout the cold war, nato was obviously the key organization there against the soviet union, but virtually every single one of our european allies is cutting defense spending. britain, big cuts are coming. france it cutting billions of euros from its budget. italy took 20% of the top. german budget is going off a cliff. is the united states going to be faced to do more? >> unfortunately, it looks like it. this ties back to the deficit issue and the crunch on defense
spending in the united states. a lot of people are saying maybe one solution may be to try to get our allies to share more of the burden. as you're pointing out, that'll be increasingly difficult going forward. >> democrats always want allies to share more of the burden but in the past when they didn't-- >> the bush administration -- [talking simultaneously] >> they were basically unilateralists. the thing with the democrats in the past when the allies refused to share the burden, we did the job. the problem is, when this decade began, we were 1/3 global economic output and global military spending, we're 1/2 military spending and 1/4 global output. we can't afford to do all the things we used to do. >> i can see that being the basis for what i see is going to be uh, a, a push for reduced american defense spending. that's going to be, why should we spend money, why should we risk american lives, going to do
jobs of the rest of the western world or other allies should be doing for themselves. i can see a bring america home lobby growing for instance with the tea party. >> we talked uh, about democrats supporting defense cuts, i think he's right and that could be republicans could latch onto that very line of thinking for defense cuts. >> the panel talked about the importance of asia and us not paying as much attention to asia. i think most people would agree the united states has a strategic interest in asia. you have a rapidly rising china. deploy it forward, how are we going to get the money if we don't have more money to field larger forces and origination? >> well there's only one way, we'll have to take the money out of other vision areas in order to focus more strongly on the western pacific. i don't know whether we will.
china can grow at 10% a year for decades now. we produced no net new jobs in the united states over the last decade. >> we're a retreating power. it's just natural that china is going to grow influence in the western pacific. >> how many carriers isn't specific to that question-- >> kirk campbell used to say it was more about simply the cop on the beat, regularly see a freighter or destroyer in the region. china has had a rather dramatic military missile fluxing this week. indisputably its territory and all negotiations, territorial disputes should be negotiated bilaterally. we're going to stick to the multiliable framework. doesn't china, don't china's actions in the south china seat and the future that it's fueling throughout asia going to have to force the united states to take a more forward posture? >> well you know, the chinese
say this was the largest naval exercise they've ever conducted since the people's liberation army was created. it's quite a show of force, but they've been fighting periodically with the vietnamese over the clench for the island for a long time. this is close to china. they need the energy, at least as much as any of the other countries in the area. of course as they become more powerful and prosperous, they'll want to force their claims. >> 30 seconds or so left, will we see more clashes with china? >> yes. >> and is the administration going to get its, hold its ground on this? >> yes, i think so. without any particular strategy in mind. just holding ground. >> guys, thanks very much. coming up in my notebook, changes t
perhaps another quarter million diplomatic cables about the afghan war and burned them onto cds. no one noticed. downloading that much information should have set off alarm bills, not so on the pentagon's internet. sharing intelligence to the front line. this information was too easy to download and contained the names and locations of informants, something even police reports don't record. by publishing the reports, wikileaks may have sentences some innocent afghans to death. spies have been a problem and now for transnational causes. also simpler and smarter procedures to better protect information that should never be shared. thanks for joining us for this week in defense news. watch this program online at defensenewstv.com. i'll be back next week at the same